Saturday, July 18, 2009

MMORPGs vs table top RPGs

Here Ryan Dancey comments on the effect of MMORPGs on table top RPGs.

Also, I think it is really hard to argue that people aren't leaving tabletop RPGs for MMOs. Any study of MMOs points out how many people are ex-TRPG players. The reason for this is that of the 5 types of people who like TRPGs, 2 of them are better served with MMO tech, and 2 are neutral, leaving just 22% of the audience who can only get the things they really like from the tabletop game.

This statement is partly based on this study of roleplaying games.

There are five broad catagories outlined in the study

Power Gamers
Character Actors

The first four are found to represent 22% of the market and the mixed category 12%.

From my own experience in gaming throughout the years. Power Gamers are a lost cause to Table-top roleplaying. Back in the day, I used to run into this type time and time again but the combination of MMORPGs, First Person Shooters, and to a lesser extent LARPS have sucked this player out of the general roleplaying market. One reason is that they thrive on human vs human combat where two players give it their all going against each other.

Thinkers are also a bit of a lost cause as well. This is mostly due to time issues. The fact that RPGs are played or progress at a glacial pace compared to MMORPGs. The computer of interface of a MMORPG can hide a lot of complexity which this type of player can try to figure out. MMORPGs can allow you to try out different combinations of attributes at time of your choosing rather than waiting for the next session.

Better served by tabletop RPGs are the Character Actors. The interplay between referee and player and with other players fuels interest. When thriving in a area, LARPS are the real competition for this player. In LARPS there is little to get in the way of your acting a role. MMORPGs are used as well but the limitation of the technology often makes these activities ephemeral.

The last is the Storyteller player. Here the Tabletop RPG reigns supreme over the MMORPG. I view this as an unfortunate choice of words because what attracts the Storyteller player is not the "story". But rather the continuity and the dynamics of interacting with the setting. The story is what emerges from the players interacting with the setting refereed by the GM.

This is something that MMORPG have yet not being able to do well due to the technology. Either they turn everything over to the players. Or they have one more storylines that you work through from Level 1 to Max level. After the second or third time through, MMORPGs players attempt a variety of quick leveling schemes to minimize play in this area of the game

The idea is NOT that Storytellers are playing for a beginning, middle, and end. Instead there is a starting point. A series of climaxes, and then a point when all the characters goals are fulfilled. This is where a campaign ends if no other non-game factor comes into play.

In some businesses catering to one segment of a market usually is a bad idea by causing your customer base to shrink from what is natural for your product. However the nice thing about focusing what interests the Storyteller is that the plot (not story) can be tweaked to appeal to the other types of players. You can add in opportunities for Power Gamers, Character Actors, and Thinkers to shine all the while keeping the person most interested in tabletop engaged.

This is one of the main reasons why I am interested in developing the sandbox campaign settings. Because the key is to have a large toolkit of "bit pieces" that you can combine for a specific session. Sure everybody like making their own stuff but since we have to referee a whole world it is never enough. At some point a player will go left instead of right and leave the referee scrambling.

While great referees can just effortlessly come up new material most, like me, need a little help. Also having prepared material often allows you to focus more on the other aspect of refereeing. The key is to have a good toolkit.

I think there is a good opportunity in supplying referees with these "bit pieces". One of the reason I like being involved in the Old School Renaissance is that it gives me an audience where I can try out different ideas than what has been done before. We will see how it works out.


DMWieg said...

Color my Storyteller, then... for me, the best part about tabletop games is exploring a made up world, or better yet, creating one and watching your friends get in trouble in said fictional world.

MMOs, to me, are tedious and without much in the way of reward. Your ways of interacting with the setting are much more limited, and no matter how intricate the interface, it will never allow you the level of interaction with a setting that table top games and a good group can get you. From my experience, the entire thing is just one continuous marathon of level grinding, and the rewards amount to little more than opportunities to grind against bigger and badder foes. The levels and skill points and all that were never my favorite part of the tabletop experience. No computer game, however elaborate, can capture my imagination in the way that good old P&P games can, and I am the type of person who really digs on having their imagination captured.

Word verification: Cogel- Cugel's not-so-clever cousin.

Will Mistretta said...

Show me a MMORPG where my friends and I can truly create and explore our own campaign world, with every element how we like it, from geography and politics, to technology, races, classes, and how magic works. Without being professional computer programs with years of our lives to spend coding before each new campaign, that is.

Show me one where we can change that entire world on-the-fly it in any way we like as quickly as Gary Gygax sent his players to Mars or Wonderland on a whim.

Show me a game that can truly account for anything at all I can think for my character to do or say in real time, from kneeing the king in the groin to challenging the dragon to a riddle contest. :)

Show me one with graphics better than my imagination.

Show me how staring at a screen can ever replace sitting around a table room face-to-face with friends.

So let those guys go. They never really got it anyway.

As for "Storyteller", too much baggage with railroady and heavy-handed campaign plots there for my taste. Call me an Explorer. I want get out in the campaign world and see what I can see. To bold go where no elf has gone before, if you will.

JDJarvis said...

I don't think MMOs really steal players that like tabletop games away from tabletop games. My weekly session has two guys in it that play MMOs (one of them plays in 3 or 4 of them). They still show up every Tuesday night (usually earlier then the originally scheduled time) to play at the table.

the fellow who plays all the MMOs is also the guy who will try hi darnedest to show up fro every one shot, play-test sessions or other monthly game. When this guys sleeps I have no clue, but certainly MMO playing doesn't mean no face time RPG playing for him.
His band or guild (whatever they call it) in one game have been questioning him a lot about traditional RPGs lately and some of them have started to give tabletop gaming go for the first time ever. One of them ( a 19-20 year old in europe) actually told him "the server was slow, the graphics sucked but it was one of the best games I ever played".

MMOs can be a gateway to tabletop RPG but I don't think games that try to ape MMOs are the way to go.

Neoncon N40MI said...

I actually think that, before all is said and done, MMOs will bring some folks back to TRPG, or in many cases, to them for the first time. Because they are more mainstream, MMOs are an RPG "gateway drug" for people who may never have discovered the hobby otherwise.

Unless they are Power Gamers, at some point, MMOs are exposed as the hollow grind factories they are ... even the best of them. Now hooked, these newly-minted RPG players start looking for a richer experience ... which leads them back to TRPGs.

Great post. Sending you some tweet love. And, go get (or post more prominently) your Twitter link. It makes it simpler to give you Twitter love. ;^D

JB said...

The idea that MMORPGs pull "thinkers" is fairly ridiculous. I've played these games and there's not much thought needed to fulfill quests. They're most;y of a step-and-fetch, kill-and-loot variety, not puzzles, tricks, and traps that require creative problem solving.

Perhaps I'm missing something here, 'cause I've only sampled WoW, City of H/V, and Guild Wars but there was precious little thinking involved. There was strategizing as to how best to "game" the obstacle, but that's still "power gaming."

Robert Conley said...

Thinkers in MMORPG are the people who create builds. It takes a different temperament than the traditional power gamer to be interested in that kind of work.

Mind you this is a simplistic explanation and relevant when you compare gamers to other gamers.

What critical about MMORPGs is the convenience factor over tabletop. You can play when YOU want to play, for as long as you want too and from the privacy of your home.

The fact that MMORPGS use similar terms and rules to those of table-top RPGs make it easy for players to transition to playing them.

The point of my post is that tabletop has advantages over MMORPG and you summed up many of them nicely.

Tabletop RPGs have some negative aspects as well one of them being prep time. What we can make easier will work to our benefit in attracting new players.